Cruise vs Land: The Smarter Way to See the World

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Cruise vs Land: The Smarter Way to See the World

Cruise tourism is ruining magnificent parts of the world. The coastlines of Norway are lined with cruise ships and working ferries. Florence is mobbed with groups bused in from the port of Livorno. The Croatian government finds its famous cities overrun and has considered rationing new cruise passengers. The Yucatan’s closest pyramids to Cancun are no longer climbable as they were damaged by crowds swamping them on Jan 1, 2000. This writer is not saying don’t visit; she is saying think about visiting your bucket list, away from the cruise crowds by staying on land.

The way to enjoy these overcrowded areas is get away from scheduled cruise crowd visits that begin and end with similar port arrivals and departures.  Obviously avoid peak seasons. Travelers who opt for tours that visit go deeper into countryside come home with more memories and a more personalized experience.  There are many advantages to land tours that outweigh the ‘packing and unpacking’ associated. 

Flexible timing: For instance, your arrivals and departures at a famous Norwegian fjord can be planned to avoid cruise schedules. Before the buses arrive, you will enjoy serenity and beauty with rural silence. You can eat at a friendly local tavern, breathing in the quiet cool air. No lines!  You need to scratch your shopping itch for a bargain or just a chocolate bar?  Do it before the cruise crowds arrive.  Increasingly American tourists depend on sites like Tripadvisor or Yelp and we end up even more overwhelming what used to be a cute trattoria or crafts store.

Another reason to opt for land vs. cruise is food. You will more often dine on local food, and in some areas this food is world famous: smoked salmon in Norway?  Smoky chiles, tart sour orange, fresh lime juice in The Yucatan? Veal schnitzel or roasted lamb in Croatia?  Street food is often what we crave after a lot of big three course meals on tour. How about a Burek or flaky pastry filled with meat or veg in Croatia where Turkish influence still pops flavors. Or a churro in Mexico? Or a crepe swabbed with forest berries in Oslo? Street food is a travel experience also. Plus it is delicious.

Food shopping is also cultural experience; so when on a land tour, spend a few minutes in a supermarket. Supermarket gifts are delightful. Lingonberry jams and jellies, honey and cookies from Scandinavia are scrumptious and dare we admit, cheaper than store bought gifts. Even  local re-usable bags can be gifts with their unusual logos or photos. Thirsty? Buy your water in a supermarket for substantial savings vs a hotel or ship. Interested in local customs, check out what locals buy and don’t be afraid to ask as best you can what they suggest.

Then there is the regimentation of having to meet early for disembarking then rushing to the bus returning to the ship.  Staying overnight in a hotel makes breakfast less competitive and less frantic. Spending one’s time with your guide, local hotel staff, even people at the hotel bar is easier on land than in the hustle bustle of a ship. Did you really pay all this money to chat with people who live next door to you?

A tour can delay or change its routing for a serendipity:  a wedding? a festival? a photo op? A tour from a ship is highly calibrated to coincide with the ship’s departure from port. However, if your arrival at the next hotel is 30 minutes later, it will not matter

Travel by land and you will see more, be surprised daily by unusual events. Emotionally you will feel a deeper connection. Still not convinced because of the ‘packing and unpacking’ conundrum? Remember on land tours, there is usually no Captain’s dress up night! Pack less. Spend a few bucks on hotel laundry! Then see the world without looking over someone else’s shoulder.

Travel Opinions from The Women’s Travel Group, who organize smart tour for women in


  • Phyllis Stoller has a BA from Tufts University, an MA from New York University and a Finance Degree from the University of the South Bank, London England. Phyllis founded the leading tour operator for women's travels in North America. After selling her company in 2006, Phyllis started a new company for women: The Womens Travel Group which she defines as Smart Tours for Women. She was voted top in women’s travel by Travel & Leisure Magazine,the first to receive this honor. Phyllis has appeared on The Today Show, CNN, Lifetime TV for Women and others. Phyllis now resides in New York and London For more information: or to join a trip this year: Phyllis Stoller Visit her web site: Follow her on Facebook: on Facebook at /toursforwomen For more information: or to join a trip this year:

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